THE SEED CATALOG / January, February and March, 2004

 

  Regeneration & Cohesion through Physical Spirituality

 

“If a baby is startled fresh from the womb, German pediatrician Ernst Moro

discovered in 1918, its arms will fly up and out, then come together in a desperate clutch,”

says Jeffrey Kluger in the wonderful January 19, 2004 issue of TIME

that focuses upon the critical importance of human touch.

 

More often than not we have only ourselves to hold, so let’s consider posturing

ourselves into a state of peaceful equanimity. The classic painting of “praying hands”

is suggestive not only of supplication, but of self-support. This position can be emulated

by resting the elbows on a table, with palms and fingers together and upward in such

a way that the pinnacle of the “praying hands” is just before the eyes.

Michelangelo’s image of God and Man touching hands on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

at the Vatican is a symbol of divine creation, but it could be, as well, a metaphor for

self-creation through the power of elementary human contact.

 

                                                                               -- Bill Joyner

 

 

Cinema Circus Movie Go Round

 

SIMON OF THE DESERT, a short feature film by Luis Bunuel, continues to knock me out every

time I recall it’s wild scenes. There is the procession of pilgrims leaving a rally below the

monastic tower upon which stands the legendary/historical Simon Stylites, who did, reportedly,

live on a pole in the desert some 30 years. A kid among the departing crowd has been miraculously

healed, but the father is completely indifferent as he bitches about some trivial aggravation.

Meanwhile, Simon, from his solitary outlook, envisions a casket, moving like a huge, ominous

snake through the sand, straight to the foot of his perch. As the casket creepily opens, a ravishing

lady emerges and soon is whispering sweet nothings in Simon’s ear, whereupon they are

transported to a disco in New York City. Simon, in modern attire, is last seen dancing with

this beautiful devil woman, his mood desultory, removed, his eyes fixed upon the great

emptiness, much as when he gazed out across the desert.

   -- Bill Joyner

 

SIMON OF THE DESERT

This short feature film by Luis Bunuel is saturated with haunting, surrealist visions. Based

ever so loosely upon the 30-year-long monastic vigil of Simon Stylites.

 

 

Passions of the Moment  -- BJ

 

                                                                                                                                             

THE TROUBLE WITH ISLAM (Random House Canada).                Irshad Manji and her book,

 

Ms. Manji, 35, a Canadian TV talk-show host, was described in The New York Times as

“An Unlikely Promoter of an Islamic Reformation,” for, while she is a practicing Muslim,

she is intensely committed to “a free trade of ideas.” For instance, she says, “If we’re sincere

about fighting the asphyxiating despotism” (of Al Queda type.philosophies), “we can’t be afraid

to ask: What if the Koran is not perfect? What if it’s not a completely God-authored book? What

if it’s riddled with human biases?”

 

That someone who effectively makes a plea for free inquiry and critical thinking must be protected

by bodyguards and bulletproof glass is, in itself, evidence that her criticisms are directly on target.

I am so amazed and inspired by her courage! It is a reminder to those of us in other faith traditions

that we also have a responsibility to progress in our understanding and not to allow literalism to

go unchallenged as the mainstream the only stream of thoughtful belief.

                                                                                 -- Bill Joyner

 

 

The Jesus Trip

 

I’ve wanted to say more about being on the Jesus train, so here goes. I think I still am on board,

although the arrogant smugness and virulent self-righteousness of some “Jesus People” very

often makes me want to throw up, just as my own take on the matter, may well cause some to

react similarly. Here’s what bugs me most -- the marketing of evangelical/fundamentalist

Christianity as a kind of ultimate, eternal insurance policy, offering what everybody wants –

eternal security – at bargain basement prices. Just say the right words and you can be absolutely

sure that you’re going to heaven. Of course, there also is the promise of  “a working knowledge

of Jesus Christ.” I thank God that when I became a born again follower of Jesus, I had no

particular teacher. I restricted thinking pretty much to things biblical, but in the very act of

openly reading the scriptures, I was finding stuff on my own that I’m sure would not have been

brought up in a “Bible Believing” fellowship.

 

 
Have a good day, you make it so. Corita Kent

 

(1) “I see them, Mia, I see them! Over there against the dark, stormy sky. They are all there.

… They dance away from the dawn, and it’s a solemn dance toward the dark lands, while the

rain washes their faces and cleans the salt of the tears from their eyes.” -- Ingmar Bergman’s

character Jof in THE SEVENTH SEAL (December)            

 

(2)… to call God transcendent … does not mean that one must establish a “superworld” of

divine objects. It does mean that within itself, the finite world points beyond itself. In other words,

it is self-transcendent.  – Paul Tillich   (already used? Maybe not, couldn’t find in either previous

calendar on quick inspection – use in 2003 for July – OK disc)

 

(3) “Myth, for primitive man, means a TRUE story; it is not an idle tale, but a hard working,

active force.” – The Encyclodpedia Britanica

 

 I love it when people rush out to see a “miracle” in the form of Jesus or Mary’s image on

the side of a pressure-washed church, or “angels” appearing in a photo of cloud formations.

It makes me think of Father Zosimo’s admonition in Dostovesky’s THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV:

“Children, do not seek miracles, for miracles kill faith.” We hunger for proofs of God and

are overly eager to embrace illusory visions as spiritual fact, whereas faith dispenses

altogether with the need for demonstrable verification.

 

While a student at the Duke Divinity School (1960 – 1963), I encountered the theologian

Rudolph Bultmann’s thoughts on “demythologizing the New Testament,” including the

implication that a person’s faith should not be threatened if an authentic film of the resurrection

had been made, revealing no body coming forth from the empty tomb on Easter morning..

Miracle stories, he suggested, are dramatic linguistic methods for revealing the nature of

faith, not the essence thereof. Mythology is not make-believe, Nikos Kazantzakis said,

but “the simple, composite expression of the most positive reality.”  So stop looking for

signs, and consider what Antoine De Saint-Exupery said in THE LITTLE PRINCE, “It is

only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

-- Bill Joyner  (July)

 

(4) If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape 100 days of sorrow. –

Chinese Proverb

 

(5) A heart free of desire is true emptiness: no holding back, just drift with the untied clouds,

existence and non-existence are one and the same: embrace the void.

– Loy Ching-Yuen (December)

 

(6) Fear leads to failure, failure leads to hatred, and hatred leads to destruction.

Love leads to life. – BJ (February)

 

(7) Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what you now do not know. –

Rembrandt

 

(8) My feeling about God is that God is a total mystery, and that’s it. –

Corita Kent in NEWSWEEK (12-17-84) (December – the last word!)

 

 

(9) Nothing is left to you at this moment but to have a good laugh. 

– A Chinese Zen Master

 

(10) WHISPERED PROPHESIES // In Francis Ford Copollo’s version of

BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, there is an eerily prescient scene in the movie when

gypsy-like peasants pass by the carriage of an unsuspecting visitor to Dracula’s

castle and whisper in the window, “Beware! The dead travel fast.” // I have heard

such whispered warnings from time to time. Once, when I was about to cast myself

upon the cross and endure more than was reasonable or necessary, a close friend

simply smiled and said with convincing gentleness, “A human sacrifice is not required.”

It’s a bit of whispered advice that I still take to heart and recall with fond appreciation.

// At other crucial moments, I have heard cautionary whispers but failed to heed them.

As when another friend said to me quite earnestly when I was about to abandon my

standing in the church, “If you step outside the system, they’ll crush you!” And soon

enough, I found that to be the case, as, from then on, I was essentially blackballed by

the ecclesiastical powers that be. (Of course, I did a lot of the heavy self-demolition

work all by myself!) At that time, I was hoping to form some kind of a secular

“cinema circus church,” a dream that yet floats about, unrealized. Dreams may

guide us, but their actualization may very likely require outrageous resources of cash,

support and luck, as well as unrelenting effort and commitment on the part of the dreamer.

Dreams, intuitions, and whispered prophecies can also mislead, causing personal

motivations and desires to be interpreted as divinely sanctioned imperatives. As ever,

in a world of free choice, we are in the driver’s seat, and must determine our

own trajectory. – BJ (October)

 

(11) As a young boy, I was not only nurtured by a devoted mother; but from within, as well.

I didn’t talk much to others, but I carried on a rich dialog with myself and basically trusted

my own understandings. Early on, I instinctively knew the long-range meaning of the saying

that “the boy is father to the man.” and I consciously tried to give the adult I would become

a strong, healthy start. (January)

 

(12) All of our Moms were angels, of course -- as we all were, once upon a time in the

land of long ago. My two brothers and I were extremely fortunate to have had as our Mama,

Gertrude B. Joyner (1913 – 1993). She labored endlessly on our behalf, always with

great, abiding love. She was a fountain of unfailing goodness to all who knew her.

She did take us to church quite regularly when we were young, but she herself was

the source of our physical and spiritual nourishment, remaining yet today, and continually,

a guiding beacon of hope. (January)

 

(13) We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through

the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been

few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that inner strength may raise a man above

his outward fate. Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the

human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose

one’s own way.  -- Victor Frankl in MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING

 

 

(14) “Well, Admiral, how near to the edge are we today?” – An imaginary dialog with

Christopher Columbus

 

(15) Understood simply as a miraculous physical reappearance, the Resurrection makes

Jesus’ life and teachings ultimately irrelevant; it is as if Jesus, during his ministry, had just

been killing time until the Main Event. Understood as an illumination that grew directly out of

everything Jesus had taught through his words and actions, however, the Resurrection

became filled with meaning.  … Clicking into this new understanding of the Resurrection,

I felt as if a weight had fallen from me. Belief was no longer a struggle; now it made sense.

 – Bruce Bawer in STEALING JESUS (pp 44-45)

 

(15) … legalistic Protestantism encourages a host of socially negative traits: selfishness,

self-righteousness, ignorance, bigotry, intolerance, and antagonism to education and

social concern and high culture. The so-called Christian values touted by Religious Right

leaders are not Christian at all (and are) based not on the gospel but on their member’s

own prejudices and antagonisms. – Bruce Bawer in STEALING JESUS (pp. 272 & 276)

 

(16) Every animal revenges his pain upon those who happen to be near. – Samuel Johnson

 

(17) I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not

to dance. – e e cummings

 

(18) “No Choice” is the slightly concealed motto of the religious right. No choice and no

voice of your own, even in matters most personally crucial to your own life – that’s what it

comes down to. It’s all One Way, their way, and the objective is simply to control the thought,

behavior and belief of everyone else. – BJ

 

(19) In times of great stress, reign in every source of alarm. Respire within and gain

strength from great oceans of calm. – BJ (January)

 

(20) … heaven lies within the deepest realms of the heart, in living things that drift like

dreams and end in a blink, detaching the dust of Self at nightfall in the ink of clouds.

– Loy Ching-yuen in THE BOOK OF THE HEART

 

(21) Every self-rising flower knows how to get down, grow up and bloom! – BJ

 


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The Seed Catalog
William T. Joyner, Editor
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